It happens several times a year through every publication that discusses women’s fashion: the emergence of a new set of style rules.
When you think about it, style rules come in all sorts of categories. If you followed every single one, it would be an achievement just to be able to throw any outfit together. They include (but are definitely not limited to) clothes you should not wear depending on:
- Your body shape. And you do not just have a normal body shape, but one of 70,000 options to choose from. Almost like everyone is different!
- Your coloring. This tends to involve a lot of umming and ahhing about “warm” and “cool” skin tones, all of which is completely baffling unless you are judging your coloring on a microscopic level.
- Your age. This is perhaps the most prevalent of the style rules, like the moment it hits 00:01 on the clock on every one of your birthdays, you become a completely different person. It is such a popular theme that it is a wonder manufacturers have not started inventing clothes with age warnings, the way we see in video games and movies.
- Your parental status. Moms like everything to be practical, while the childfree do not or so these articles would have you believe.
- Your starsign and whether Mercury is in retrograde. Okay, so that is flippant, but some magazine editor is currently staring at copy and wondering if they can make it fly.
So there are “The Rules” and you have to work to implement them. You cannot just go to Marshalls dresses and find something that you like, buy it, and then wear it! That is just wrong! Something dictated to you by an industry that has nothing whatsoever to gain from marketing specific clothes to just one section of the populace.
Time to get serious! The thing is, as ridiculous as we might dismiss these rules to be, they are invasive. Even if we want to shrug them off, they still play in the back of our mind and in the mind of others.
That is why we have phrases in the general lexicon like “mutton dressed as lamb” to denigrate a woman who is dressing younger than she actually is. These rules are made into rules, because we let them be, because it is constantly reinforced to us that we have to meet a set of criteria. Even if we find the whole concept farcical, we are still aware that other people might judge us for our choices.
When it comes down to it, it is all a matter of confidence. We are not programmed to want to stand out from the crowd, no matter how many motivational posters tell us to do so. There is an in-built desire in the human brain to fit in, to melt into the herd, to make ourselves less obvious. We sacrifice our desire for fabulous fashion at the altar of being one of the insiders.
Is it possible to conquer? Or are we going to spend the rest of our lives behaving in a specific way because we do not know told us to do so?
The Key To Individuality
Have you ever heard someone described as “such an individual” or “so unique”? It is quite strange to label someone with that, since no one else on the planet shares our DNA. (Sidenote: there is an exception for identical twins, but even they may have different fingerprints.)
The difference for the people who are praised for their individuality is that they let it shine. They look at a dress that every style rule says they should hate and they think, “but I like it”. They put it on and is it the best color, the best length, the best style for their body? No, however they feel good in it. They like it, so they celebrate that!
If you want to break free from these restrictions, the best way to begin is to start small. Accessories are a great versatile way to play with doing something different without breaking the bank. Hats are mostly worn for formal occasions these days, but not only can they look great, they are a godsend for those bad hair days we all get.
Play around with jewelry — mix metals (even though they say you should not) and wear pink gemstones if you are a redhead (a definite no-no according to them). It may make you feel a little exposed at first, breaking rules that have become so ingrained that you did not even know you were following them.
It will get easier, though! No one is going to pelt you with rotten tomatoes and you may even receive some compliments. From here on, you are flying.
Breaking The Age Barrier
30 seems to be the golden point at which women are expected to pack away anything that reveals their figure and retreat into a twinset and pearls. It is such a constant feature that Tyra Banks (at the time in her 40s) named one of her youthful-looking America’s Next Top Model devotees “30-Never”. Because 30 is a bad thing. 30 is when we are old and ready for the scrap heap, so out go the interesting clothes!
It is a real shame this exists, because study after study has shown that women gain more confidence every year after 30. It is the decade we begin to finally feel comfortable in our own skin.
There is no suggestion that you have to flash flesh in the name of breaking the rules. Just do not let your age be a restriction. Your mantra is no longer “is this age appropriate”, but a simple two-part question:
Do I like it?
Would I feel good wearing it?
If the answer to both is a solid “yes”, then go for it! Emboldened by experimentation with accessories, there is nothing to stop you except your own worries about what others will think. And, apologies for the motivational-poster-worthy tone, that is a silly way to live your life. If you like it and it would make you feel good, then wear it. Life is too short to worry about short skirts!